San Francisco is a city in California famous for its steep streets and movie locations.  Here are a few must see San Francisco landmarks;

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Coit Tower
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Pier 39
  • Union Square
  • Chinatown
  • Nob Hill
  • Cable Cars
  • Lombard Street
  • Coit Tower
  • Transamerica Pyramid
  • Salesforce Tower
  • Millennium Tower – Leaning Tower of San Francisco

San Francisco is a super expensive city, it’s comparable to visiting a Swiss or Scandinavian city in Europe.  When you stay here you must accept that you will spend more money than in other US cities.  I found that staying in a hotel around Van Ness street was the best value.  I stayed in the Inn on Broadway which is located on Van Ness and Broadway, it’s not cheap but nowhere is cheap here!  Staying here meant I could park the car for free and leave it in the hotel whilst walking the city on foot.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Landmarks - Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate bridge is probably the most famous bridge in the world.  It has featured in many movies and a visit to this famous bridge doesn’t disappoint.  Here are a few interesting Golden Gate Bridge facts.

  • It’s constantly being painted.  By the time they finish painting it, it needs repainting!
  • Earthquake proof bridge
  • The number one suicide location in the world (don’t try this!)
  • 10 million pedestrians cross it per year
  • The Golden Gate Bridge features in the following movies; San Andreas, Vertigo, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and James Bond.

As a photographer, the bridge was my favorite part of San Francisco.  The best photo opportunities come as you head towards it on the promenade.  Moreover, when you cross the bridge you can feel it shaking.

Alcatraz Island

San Francisco Landmarks - Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz needs no introduction, it’s a notorious prison located on a island visible from San Francisco.  However, to visit Alcatraz nowadays is quite difficult.  Due to its popularity, more often than not, tours are fully booked days in advance.  For this reason, you must book your visit well in advance.  Ferries leave from Pier 33 which is a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf.  Alcatraz Island has been in many movies including, Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock.  Finally, there’ll probably be an ex-prisoner selling and signing his book on the Island.

Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco Landmarks - Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is the main tourist area of San Francisco.  There are lots of stalls selling sourdough bread bowls filled with crab and clam chowder.  In addition, there’s a colony of sea lions and hundreds of birds feeding on people’s leftovers.  A photograph with the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf sign is a must.  Lastly, modern yellow San Francisco trams leave from Fisherman’s Wharf, passing the piers before reaching the downtown area.  These yellow trams are incredibly photogenic and often much quieter than the historic cable cars.


Pier 39

San Francisco Landmarks - Pier 39

The famous Pier 39 is part of the Fisherman’s Wharf area.  At Pier 39 you’ll find waterfront restaurants, bars, street performers, live music, shopping and lots of sea lions.

Union Square

San Francisco Landmarks - Union Square

Union Square is the central square of downtown San Francisco.  It’s surrounded by upscale shops and hotels.  In addition, it’s surrounded by several San Francisco landmarks including some of its iconic buildings.  Finally, in the center of square is a statue of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory.  Did you know there’s also a statue of Nike at the Olympiastadion in Berlin?

Chinatown

San Francisco Landmarks - Chinatown

The most famous Chinatown of the USA is that of San Francisco.  There are several blocks of the city where you’d be forgiven if you thought you were in China.  Adjacent to Chinatown is the Instagram worthy Nob Hill area of San Francisco.

Nob Hill – Top Instagram Spot

San Francisco Landmarks - Nob Hill

The Nob Hill district of San Francisco features both colorful and historic mansions.  These are stunning to see in their own right.  However, combine these with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, steep streets and other San Francisco landmarks makes Nob Hill a top San Francisco Instagram spot.


Cable Cars

San Francisco Landmarks - Cable Cars

San Francisco is famous for its traditional cable cars which still run on Taylor street.  You can take the traditional cable car from the Powell / Mason cable car turnaround adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Alternatively, modern cable cars leave from Powell and Beach, passing the piers then going to the heart of downtown.  Lastly, you’ll see these historic cable cars in movies such as Vertigo and The Rock.

Lombard Street

San Francisco Landmarks - Lombard Street

Before leaving San Francisco I wanted to drive on the famous Lombard Street.  It is claimed that Lombard street is the crookedest street in the world.  Because the road is so steep, for safety reasons they made the road wind around.  Lombard street appears in some computer games and also in the Hitchcock movie, Vertigo.  You’ll see lots of tourists here taking photos as well as driving on it.  For this reason, if you’re in a rush to leave San Francisco, don’t go this way!


Coit Tower

San Francisco Landmarks - Coit Tower

Coit Tower is part of Pioneer Park.  Why is it called Coit Tower?  It’s named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit whose mission was to make San Francisco a beautiful city.  Today you can ascend Coit Tower for panoramic views over the bay as well as the San Francisco landmarks.  Even if you decide not to visit the tower, it has a prominent position in the San Francisco skyline.

Muir Woods

The Muir Woods National Forest is famous for huge redwood trees.  Additionally, there are various walking trails through the park.  You may recognise some of the scenes from the movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Lastly, it’s possible to visit Muir Woods on a organised trip from San Francisco.

Transamerica Pyramid

San Francisco Landmarks - Transamerica Pyramid

The Transamerica Pyramid is definitely the most identifiable in the San Francisco skyline.  It’s the second tallest building in San Francisco and the third tallest pyramid shaped building in the world.  In fact, only the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea and Shard in London are taller pyramids.

Salesforce Tower

San Francisco Landmarks - Salesforce Tower

At 326 meters high, the Salesforce Tower is the tallest building in San Francisco.  It’s also the second tallest building in the West after the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles.  Finally, it photographs beautifully at sunset with its reflective windows.


Millennium Tower

San Francisco Landmarks - Millennium Tower

You may have heard of Millenium Tower in the news.  It became famous as it’s both a sinking and now a leaning building.  Due to its size, it’s difficult to see the lean.  Nonetheless, it’s now known as the Leaning Tower of San Francisco, of course, inspired from the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

How to Travel from San Francisco to Reno

My next destination is Reno which is a straightforward drive on east on I-80.  This route passes the capital city of California, Sacramento as well as Lake Tahoe before crossing the border in Nevada.

Reno to Lassen Volcanic National Park